“When he reached the setting place of the sun…” : Tafsir ibn Kathir, al-Shinqitee & al-Qurtubi

Allah mentions the story of Dhu’l-Qarnain in surah al-Kahf and brings the following ayah therein:

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغْرِ‌بَ الشَّمْسِ وَجَدَهَا تَغْرُ‌بُ فِي عَيْنٍ حَمِئَةٍ

Until, when he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a murky spring. [18:86]

al-Haafidh Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel Ibn Kathir (d. 774 AH) commented on this ayah by writing:

وقوله : ( وجدها تغرب في عين حمئة ) أي : رأى الشمس في منظره تغرب في البحر المحيط ، وهذا شأن كل من انتهى إلى ساحله ، يراها كأنها تغرب فيه ، وهي لا تفارق الفلك الرابع الذي هي مثبتة فيه لا تفارقه

His statement “and he found it setting in a murky spring” meaning, he saw the sun from his viewpoint setting in the expansive ocean. This is something which everyone who goes to the coast can see; it looks as if the sun is setting into it [the ocean] but it never leaves its path in which it is fixed.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 5/192]

Imam Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee (d. 1393 AH) quoted this statement from ibn Kathir in his own tafsir on this ayah and then went on to explain:

قال ابن كثير رحمه الله في تفسيره : وجدها تغرب في عين حمئة [ 18 \ 86 ] ، أي : رأى الشمس في منظره تغرب في البحر المحيط ، وهذا شأن كل من انتهى إلى ساحله يراها كأنها تغرب فيه إلى آخر كلامه ، ومقتضى كلامه أن المراد بالعين في الآية البحر المحيط ، وهو ذو طين أسود ، والعين تطلق في اللغة على ينبوع الماء ، والينبوع : الماء الكثير ، فاسم العين يصدق على البحر لغة ، وكون من على شاطئ المحيط الغربي يرى الشمس في نظر عينه تسقط في البحر أمر معروف ، وعلى هذا التفسير فلا إشكال في الآية ، والعلم عند الله تعالى

… And his words entail that that the intended meaning of the ‘spring’ in this ayah is an expansive ocean which contains some black sediment. And the word ‘ayn [spring] linguistically applies to any source of the water, and a source is an abundance of water, so the word ‘ayn is accurately applied to an ocean in a linguistic sense. And being on the shore of a western ocean, seeing the sun fall into the ocean from one’s own perspective is a well-known phenomenon. So according to this explanation, there is no problem in this ayah, and the knowledge is with Allah the Exalted.

[Adhwaa al-Bayaan 3/342]

Also, Imam al-Qurtubi (d. 671 AH) offered the following explanation in his book of tafsir:

قال بعض العلماء : ليس المراد أنه انتهى إلى الشمس مغربا ومشرقا وصل إلى جرمها ومسها ; لأنها تدور مع السماء حول الأرض من غير أن تلتصق بالأرض ، وهي أعظم من أن تدخل في عين من عيون الأرض ، بل هي أكبر من الأرض أضعافا مضاعفة ، بل المراد أنه انتهى إلى آخر العمارة من جهة المغرب ومن جهة المشرق ، فوجدها في رأي العين تغرب في عين حمئة ، كما أنا نشاهدها في الأرض الملساء كأنها تدخل في الأرض

Some of the scholars say: the intended meaning is not that he reached the sun’s setting and rising and that he reached its limits and touched them, for it [the sun] circulates with the sky around the earth without being attached to the earth. And it is more massive than to be able to enter into any body of water from the bodies of water of the earth; in fact, it is many times larger than the earth itself. Rather, the intended meaning is that he reached the end of its track from from the direction of the West to the direction of the East, so from his own point of view he found it setting in a murky body of water, just as we witness it on the plain earth as if it were entering into the earth.

[Jaami’ li-Ahkam al-Qur’an 10/422]

And the other well-known books of tafsir of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah have offered similar explanations of this ayah in more or less detail, each according to their own style and norms.

For more tafsir of surah al-Kahf, click here.

One thought on ““When he reached the setting place of the sun…” : Tafsir ibn Kathir, al-Shinqitee & al-Qurtubi

  1. Pingback: Does the Qur’an use metaphorical language? – Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

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